Monday, January 19, 2009

 

REVELATION CHAPTER 16 VERSE BY VERSE

A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE

Revelation 16:1 - 21

The information presented in the following twenty-one verses should cause all men to examine their relationship with the Almighty God. The events we are about to observe are both awesome and terrifying. In fact, the only consolation for the believer is that he will not be present when the forthcoming scenario actually takes place. By the time our study is concluded, we will understand and appreciate more than ever before the words of the Apostle Paul in Titus 2:13: Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. The final seven judgments of the Tribulation hour are about to begin.

Verse 1: And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth.

The voice of Almighty God issues forth from the smoke-filled Temple, directing the angels to carry out their duties. Remember, God himself is sending forth these judgments. His holiness has been offended. Mankind has worshipped a man-the Antichrist, the devil in human skin-even bowing to his image, the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15). The true and eternal God is justly angry. He cannot allow this iniquity to go unjudged.

In Isaiah 42:8 Jehovah says, I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. Again, in Exodus 20:4-6: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Because mankind, en masse, has grossly violated this commandment during the Tribulation period, the promised judgment must begin.

First bowl judgment

Verse 2: The first [angel] went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image.

What a scene, as the first bowl is poured out and men become covered with ulcerated sores! They had the mark of the beast (666), and now they have the mark of God-ulcers. These festering infections probably obscure the beastÆs number.

Can this verse be taken literally? The plague is similar to one of past history: And the Lord said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains [ulcerated sores] upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt. And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians (Exodus 9:8-1 1). What a terrible price men pay for not believing God!

Second bowl judgment

Verse 3: And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea.

Again history records a time when the waters turned to blood: Thus saith the Lord, In this thou shalt know that I am the Lord: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the water of the river. And the Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone. And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt (Exodus 7:17-21). If God did it once, He can certainly do it again. He is the omnipotent, all-powerful God. His promises never fail.

Pausing momentarily to review our studies, we recall that the second seal (chapter 6:3,4) brought great bloodshed upon earth and the second trumpet blast (chapter 8:8) caused a third part of the sea to become blood. In the verse presently under study, every sea creature perishes when the water is turned to blood. The result is an unbearable stench throughout the entire world as these organisms decease and decay. Think of it! That which always symbolized life-the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11 )-and symbolized salvation-the blood of Jesus Christ [GodÆs] Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7)-now becomes a symbol of condemnation and death. Wait! There is more. The third vial extends the destruction to all bodies of water internationally.

Third bowl judgment

Verse 4: And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.

Verse 5: And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus.

Verse 6: For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.

Verse 7: And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.

By this time, one may have been tempted to believe that God is not just. To the contrary, God is always equitable, fair, and righteous in His dealings with men. Genesis 18:25 declares, Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? No man has all the facts in his possession. Thus, he must wait until he meets God face to face. Then and only then will he be able to make unbiased decisions.

Notice that angelic beings have different responsibilities upon earth. In our text, we see the angel of (or over) the waters justifying GodÆs actions by saying, Thou art righteous, O Lord [the eternal one] ...because [of thy judgments]. In effect, the angel is saying, The wicked beast worshipers who shed the blood of so many of Your saints and prophets may not satisfy their insatiable desire for blood by drinking it to their heartÆs content. They deserve what has happened to them. You have answered the prayers of Your saints under the altar (chapter 6). As this message of vindication to the Almighty is concluded, a voice from the altar replies, Even so or Amen. Justice prevails. GodÆs judgments are true and righteous.

Revelation 16: 8 - 11

Fourth bowl judgment

Verse 8: And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.

Verse 9: And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.

The inhabitants of planet earth now experience the greatest heat wave in history. Many of us remember what happened in the south during the summer of 1980. Crops were parched and great numbers of people died as temperatures consistently soared over 100 degrees. Now we see what happens when the sun is out of control. Isaiah predicted this period of time in chapter 24, verses 4-6: The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.

The earth becomes so drastically hot during this judgment that God has to alleviate the suffering by shortening the daylight hours. Jesus said in Matthew 24:22, And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. What did He mean? Many scholars have proposed the idea of the Tribulation period being abbreviated, but this is an impossibility because God's predestined program for the Tribulation totals seven years-or eighty-four months, or exactly 2,520 days. Since the scheduled timetable is already prophesied, not one day can be cut from the program. Verse 2 of chapter 11 mentions 1,260 days as one half of this period and no one can change God's plan. Therefore, we must find another explanation.

Is there a solution? Definitely! God shortens the daylight hours and lengthens the night seasons to keep millions alive. He accomplishes this by darkening the sun, as predicted by His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ: Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened (Matthew 24:29). This statement harmonizes with Revelation 6:12: And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair. God's method of shortening the daylight hours hinders the sun's death purge of earth's inhabitants by reducing the amount of ultraviolet rays bombarding the planet. This act of mercy is for His people, the saved Tribulation saints, for He adds in Matthew 24:22, But for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.

Once again we need to remember that the Church, the elect bride of Christ composed of all those who were born again prior to the Rapture (chapter 4, verse 1), is at home in glory during this time. The earthly group of Tribulation saints presently being discussed constitutes the election of Romans 11:28. They are also referred to as Jacobites, or Israelites, in Romans 11:26. These are Jews. They are not members of the bride of Christ, but rather members of the wife of Jehovah.

Mankind's reaction to the scorching with fire takes the form of further rebellion. Instead of repenting and appealing to God who has power to stay the plague (verse 9), the people aim a barrage of four-letter blasphemies at the Almighty. The human heart is exceedingly wicked and callous (see Jeremiah 17:9). Even in the face of such agonizing judgment, repentance, restitution, and reconciliation are the farthest things from men's minds. Truly, they are hardened sinners.

Fifth bowl judgment

Verse 10: And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,

Verse 11: And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.

Whereas the fourth judgment produced unusual brightness through the scorching rays of the sun, the fifth bowl unleashes darkness upon the very throne of the Antichrist and throughout his empire. This could certainly be related to the shortening of the days and lengthening of the nights, as already described. Whatever the darkness is, we take it to be literal as was the Egyptian plague described in Exodus 10:21-23: And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days: They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.

What a thrilling moment for the saints on earth! They see the satanically-controlled or devil-incarnated leader humiliated internationally as the power of God is unleashed upon his seat of government. This scene is equated with the the day of the Lord. The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light (Amos 5:18). Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like [militarily], neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations (Joel 2:1,2).

Who is the military colossus that produces such darkness and gloominess in the last days? Russia! But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great [frightful] things (Joel 2:20). The only nation in the world north of Israel with a barren area and two oceans surrounding it is Russia. This is the same nation that comes against Israel from the north in Ezekiel 38:15 and is known by the names Magog, Meshech, Tubal, and Rosh. How near it all appears!

In our text, the Day of the Lord has arrived. The wicked gnaw their tongues for pain, but continue blaspheming the God of heaven. Apparently, no amount of punishment for sin can change some people. They repented not. Don't let it happen to you!

Revelation 16:12 - 21

Sixth bowl judgment

Verse 12: And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.

Verse 13: And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.

Verse 14: For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

Verse 15: Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

Verse 16: And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.

The sixth trumpet judgment should be recalled in the light of the sixth tipped bowl. There is a striking similarity. Chapter 9, verses 13-18, depicts the sixth angel voicing his commands. As he does, four angels are loosed from the great river Euphrates-the area of present-day Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Wow! A total of two hundred million troops (9:16) appear in the Middle East from the Orient. This has to be the largest assemblage of military men in the annals of history!

In the text before us (16:12), we witness a miraculous drying up of the Euphrates River in order that the kings of the east might cross over unhindered. The word kings pictures the leaders of troops. They cross the Euphrates in order to participate in the greatest Mid-East confrontation ever-the Battle of Armageddon! Actually, the conflict is a fight against the Lord and His hosts and will be discussed in detail when we arrive at its explanation point-chapter 19, verses 11-16. Upon their arrival in the Holy Land, these oriental kings or rulers join with the leaders of other nations for the war of wars as predicted in Psalm 2:2-4: The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

How near is Armageddon? Bear in mind that both chapters 9 and 16 mention the Euphrates River as a focal point in this war. Keep your eyes on the Mid-East-especially Iran, Iraq, and Syria-in the days ahead. The Euphrates was jointly theirs when these nations were called Persia. Thus, Iran, Iraq, and Syria are a prominent identification point for the end-time war.

Between the sixth and seventh seal and trumpet judgments, we encountered parenthetical utterances. Now we find another parenthesis between the sixth and seventh bowl judgments. This we shall consider from verses 13-16, already quoted.

Verse 13 reveals three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouths of (1) the dragon (Satan), (2) the beast (Antichrist), and (3) the false prophet (head of the world church). What we see, then, is an unholy trinity controlled by the power of evil spirits in an age of occultism, as explained in chapter 9, verses 20 and 21. The symbolism of frogs (for the text says like frogs) speaks of uncleanness. The plague of frogs in Egypt produced an obnoxious stench that filled the land with indescribable odors and filth (see Exodus 8:14). Thus, the picture is clear. The counterfeit trinity-the devil, the Antichrist, and the false prophet-produce supernatural miracles through the power of the devil and his demonic spirits, thus convincing the kings of the earth that these men are gods. Because of it, the kings willingly follow them to the Middle East for the great day of God Almighty, which is Armageddon. The entire situation reeks in God's nostrils.

Verse 15 is a pause or lull before the storm. God says He will come as a thief. This again proves that the Church is not present, for that day shall not overtake believers as a thief (see 1 Thessalonians 5:4). The words of verse 15, then, constitute a final admonition to the Tribulation saints, telling them to watch for His coming and to continue walking in pathways of holiness. The terms watcheth and garmentsrefer to slothfulness and carelessness, spiritually speaking. Let's prove this. In Christ's day, a one-piece garment was removed at bedtime. It was worn only during waking hours. Here the Lord tells the final group or gleaning of Tribulation saints to watch, for in so doing they will be awake and clothed. The command is to be prepared. Preparation voids their being found naked and ashamed.

The same is true for believers today. When Jesus comes, multitudes will stand at the Judgment Seat naked (without rewards) and ashamed, because they were not watching. Heed the warning of 1 John 2:28: And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.

Verse 16 names the location of the great day of God Almighty: Armageddon or the mount of Megiddo-the place where numerous battles have occurred throughout history. Armageddon will also be the scene of the final battle when the winepress of the wrath of God is released upon the nations.

Seventh bowl judgment

Verse 17: And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.

Verse 18: And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.

Verse 19: And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.

Verse 20: And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

Verse 21: And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.

Satan is the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). This is why we wrestle...against [evil spirits] in high places (Ephesians 6:12). The seventh angel, in pouring out his bowl into the air, destroys the last traces of Satan's abiding place. Armageddon, as will be explained in chapter 19, also destroys every nook and cranny where Satan has had a resting place. As this occurs, a voice out of the temple of heaven victoriously shouts, It is done! The twenty-one judgments are completed.

Interestingly, when Christ bore the judgment for our sins, He cried, It is finished. Now, as unregenerate mankind pays the price for their sin of not repenting and allowing Christ to bear their load, a voice from heaven again cries, It is finished. There will be no further judgments. Judgment number twenty-one is the finale.

The seventh outpoured bowl produces thunders, lightnings, and the most devastating earthquake ever to occur upon earth. The Prophet Haggai undoubtedly predicted this when he stated: For thus saith the Lord of hosts...I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations [Christ] shall come (Haggai 2:6,7).

One should be certain to note that the final bowl judgment does not bring about the end of the world. Instead, the Lord Jesus Christ returns at this time, establishes His earthly kingdom, and rules for one thousand years (chapter 20, verse 4). Still this is the end of civilization as we have known it. The destruction divides the great city (Jerusalem) into three parts and causes every major city in all nations to fall. In addition, every island flees away and mountains become dislocated, even to the point of disappearing into the oceans. The worst judgment is reserved for Babylon, which receives the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. A detailed study of Babylon's demise will be conducted in chapter 18.

The climax is the raining down from heaven of hailstones weighing from 86 to 120 pounds. The Greek talent weighed 86 pounds, the Troy talent 96 pounds, and the Jewish talent 120 pounds. Whatever measurement is used, this hailstorm will do more than dent cars and demolish homes. It will literally pulverize everything in sight.

In spite of this plague, the inhabitants of earth continue calling God dirty names. Men never learn. Finally they must die and suffer eternal banishment from God in a fiery hell. Even then they weep and gnash their teeth (see Matthew 8:12). Although weeping denotes sorrow, the gnashing of teeth depicts cursing. No wonder God's Word says that the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever (Revelation 14:11).

May none of this ever be a part of your experience. Make certain you have gotten in on the first It is finished cry of Jesus Christ upon the cross of Calvary. Do not keep hesitating only to finally hear the It is done wail of judgment number twenty-one. Christ died for you, shed His blood for the remission of your sins, and He longs to save you.

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